Located at a critical intersection of the Engineering Quad of the Cornell University Ithaca Campus is the home of the Sibley School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. The project comprises the renovation and programming of the existing 160,000 sf Upson Hall to accommodate hybrid engineering labs, classrooms, office and student project spaces. New social and gathering spaces are cantilevered from the original concrete structure and located at key connecting points in the project to active the life of the building. The school’s administrative hub is placed at the main entrance adjacent to a new communicating staircase that links five floors of classrooms, faculty laboratories, graduate student spaces, and faculty offices. A double-height staircase connects the main floor to the corner of the Engineering Quad, while a custom 250’ long ceiling and display case housing the renowned Reuleaux Collection of Kinematic Mechanisms, animate this first floor main artery. The expansive student project rooms and workshops, including the Emerson Manufacturing Lab, the Experimental Learning Lab and the GM Automotive Lab, occupy the entire lower floor and form a dynamic and accessible component of the renovation. Newley created visual and physical connections between the main entry floor and the lower floor ensure that the student project spaces are brought into awareness for the entire Cornell Campus. The second floor is focused on teaching classrooms and laboratories, including the wind tunnels, material testing, fluid mechanic and heat transfer labs. The upper 3 floors are dedicated to faculty research laboratories, offices and support spaces.
The Upson Hall renovation project used a unique interdisciplinary team, joining two architecture firms in collaboration with mechanical engineering firms to initiate an aesthetic, programmatic and sustainable transformation of the post-war era Engineering Quadrangle.
Beginning with a masterplan to envision an energy-responsive re-cladding of seven buildings that form the Engineering Quad, the goal was creating the highest level of building performance on the Ithaca campus. In repurposing the 1956 building, the Upson Hall project transforms a work of international modernism into a highly tuned, site specific building, setting precedent for the rejuvenation of the Engineering Quadrangle.
The original building was stripped down to the concrete frame and completely rethought from inside to out. To foster communication between the engineering disciplines, vertical public spaces are carved from the existing structure, creating visual and social connections. Through an integrated approach to façade design combined with energy-modeling, the climate-specific response of a “transparent blanket” was developed, calibrating open glazed areas to maximize daylight in Ithaca’s overcast environment with heavily insulated walls to perform within a cold winter climate. The new 1’-6” façade (R-26), transformed the ribbon-window building into a contemporary, energy efficient and flexible research laboratory. 3 different terracotta profiles change from the lower floors to upper floors to accentuate shadow patters and reflect the stratified rock of the local geology. Larger expanses of glass are reserved for the new cantilevered public spaces at the corners, inviting the campus into the interior and providing gathering points between offices and laboratories to spur innovation.
LTL Architects is a design intensive architecture firm founded in 1997 by Paul Lewis, Marc Tsurumaki and David J. Lewis, located in New York City. The firm engages a diverse range of work, from large scale academic and cultural buildings to interiors and speculative research projects, and realizes inventive solutions that turn the very constraints of each project into the design trajectory, exploring opportunistic overlaps between space, program, form, budget and materials.
Since 1935, Perkins+Will has created innovative and award-winning designs for the world’s most forward-thinking clients. We are architects, interior designers, urban designers, landscape architects, consultants, and branded environment experts who approach design from all scales and perspectives. Engaged, accessible, and collaborative, our staff of 2,200 professionals brings together high design, functional performance, and social responsibility to advance project goals.